It was 15th January, 2018. The afternoon was hot and humid. For days, Mr Adesina Ogunlana, NBA’ Ikeja branch Chairman, had been on my neck to speak at the annual memorial lecture of my late mentor, the irrepressible legend and legal colossus of all times, Chief Ganiyu Oyesola Fawehinmi, who transited on 5th September, 2009. Gani was not just a lawyer. He was the quintessential social justice crusader, avant-garde, and radical lawyer who deployed law as an instrument of social engineering.
He belonged to the non violent resistance school of Ghandi. In my tribute to him, while he was lying in state, I said, “Gani was simply unique, and inimitable. If you turned either side of Gani, you will still meet Gani, because Gani was ganistic!” Gani was engaging, breathtaking, deeply knowledgeable in law, fearless, courageous and bold. He once told me: “Ozek Baba (that was his nick name for me, in addition to “Mobile Dictionary” or “Mobile Library”), if you stand on a principle, stand firm, even if you are standing alone. Others will later come and join you. It is better to live standing on one’s feet than to die crawling on one’s kneels”.
Such was the icon and prodigy who led our anti-SAP riots of the 80’s, for which he, Tai Solarin, us, younger elements, were greatly harassed by the military junta of the then President General Ibrahim Babangida. He was later detained for many months for leading this struggle in which he said there was alternative to IMF. Just like in many other struggles. I have been a struggler all my life. I offer no apologies to anyone for this.
When Gani delved into politics, contesting for the Presidency of the National Conscience Party (NCP), a party he deficiently formed when the government had prescribe political activities, he did not mind that he, not being a wealthy money bag, he would gather peanut votes. To him, the principle behind the defiance and embracing democracy from the iron grip of military autocracy and dictatorship, was more important. He indeed made the point.
I knew Gani, very well, beyond words, not just on the job, but on his persona. I am perhaps beaten to this my deep knowledge of him by only his wives and immediate family members.
So, no one, not the latter day hired motley crowd of emergency “human rights Activists”, who make babel of noise to obtain grants from local and international donors, know a thing about Gani. Some of them were not even born when Gani led us were in the struggle, fighting successive military juntas, in the trenches.
My programme on the day of the memorial lecture was quite tight for the day. I would be at the Federal High Court, Lagos, to defend yet another innocent Nigerian citizen being repressed and punished by her traducers in the present government (in the name of fighting corruption) . I would also fly to Port Harcourt to handle an appeal at the Court of Appeal, on 16th instant. The lecture time was therefore not conducive for me, being in serious conflict with these long scheduled cases. But, for Chief Fawehinmi, the fire-eating stormy petrel, who lionized and tigerised me and helped cut my wisdom tooth in activism and the legal profession (the other being, “peoples lawyer”, late Chief Kanmi Isola-Osobu), no sacrifice was too much to make. I must therefore speak at the lecture, whose guest lecturer, incidentally, was my friend and classmate (1980 OAU, Ile-Ife and 1981 Law school, Lagos, sets), fecund and brilliant Professor Ademola Popoola.
I became more resolute and fortified in my decision to attend the lecture because a day earlier, some hazy, hired mob that tagged themselves “youths” and “students” had threatened fire and brimstone if I attended the lecture.
They were actually on song, threatening to prevent me from attending the lecture. These are the types of elements that Professor Wole Soyinka once derisively, during his 2016 “Wolexit” threat and burning of his card over Trump’s winning of the American Presidency, termed internet “millipedes”, “imbeciles”, ‘barbarians”, and “blabber mouths”. He was right, dead on target.
According to this pro-repressive government bunch of “Activists” (“Cashtivists”, a better term), of less than 20 mobsters whom I later learnt were rented with mouth-watering sums by my detractors who are miffed at my ever rising profile, and who described infamously themselves as “students”, and “youth”, my “crime” was that I am “defending people accused of corruption”. They surprisingly used the word, “accused”, not “convicted”. They listed such people as the much traduced and vilified former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, to whom no illegal source of funds has been shown, traced, or proven by government till date in over twelve cases. Another person they mentioned is the no 3 citizen of Nigeria, the calm Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki. They also listed the one man riot squad and courageous new face of opposition and democracy in Nigeria, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. This is a man who has consistently and irrepressibly put this government on its fumbling and wobbly toes!
To bring its theatricality to Baba Sallah’s Alawada Kerikeri histrionics level, they also listed Dino Melaye, the fire brand Senator who has sponsored more bills, moved more motions than any other Senator in the 8th National Assembly.
To these hirelings, it is a “crime” for me to defend them. They did not mind that these people are being harassed and persecuted by the present government, using an array of full government coercive apparatchik, while employing leading SANs and experienced lawyers for those being prosecuted. They wanted these citizens simply thrown into the dungeon, hands manacled and legs shackled, without any defence whatsoever. Haba!
If Gani were alive (from my deep knowledge of him), he would have gone to court voluntarily, without even being consulted or paid by them, to defend them against government impunity and persecution, and protect their fundamental rights and the rule of law. Because they were hired with filthy lucre and have never known, nor be tutored, on the dynamics of the centripetal and centrifugal forces playing out in the Nigerian, milieu, this hypocritical band of miscreants simulated cacophonous babel of noise on loud speakers, by less than 20 paid historical revisionists, to attempt to ridicule, intimidate me and tar me with the paint brush of corruption. They were quarrelling with me for being good at my profession, having an edge with successive victories over their unjustified and unjustifiable targeting of some innocent citizens for persecution and humiliation. They therefore threatened mayhem fire and brimstone. I was undaunted. Because they never cared to know that the Nigerian criminal justice system is accusatorial (Anglo-saxon model that presumes one’s innocence), as against the French inquisitorial model, which presumes one’s guilt, they badly goofed out of outrageous ignorance. (To be continued next week).
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
“There is enough treachery, hatred, violence, absurdity in the average human being to supply any given army on any given day. And the best at murder are those who preach against it; and the best at hate are those who preach love; and the best at war finally are those who preach peace. Beware the preachers; beware knowers;… beware of those who are quick to censors, they are afraid of what they do not know;… but there is genius in their hatred to kill you, to kill anybody. They will attempt to destroy anything that differs from their own;… and they will hate you and their hatred will be perfect like a shining diamond, like a knife, like a mountain, like a tiger, like hemlock” (Charles Bukowski, in “The Genius of the Crowd”).
I earnestly believe that Nigerians are reading, digesting and eagerly awaiting the next tranche of this discourse in the Sunday Sermon on the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, Ph.D, FCIArb, LL.D.